The White City: No Not Minas Tirith

We arrived in Arequipa quite late at night, so we had little chance to see what everyone has been raving about until the following morning. When the sun was up, a short walk revealed the unique splendor of this Peruvian city. Known as the “White City”, many of the buildings in Arequipa are made of Silar a white or pink volcanic stone which creates a stunning downtown.

In addition, the central square is charming with a beautiful fountain, palm trees, plenty of flowers, an impressive cathedral and white cap mountains as a backdrop.

Inside the church we viewed the largest organ in South America that was apparently donated by Belgium in 1854 and interestingly enough was out of tune for 100 years.

On another corner of the square is the intricate Church of the Jesuits. The facade is an interesting mix of Christian and native Peruvian motifs, including condors and pumas.  Inside this church they proudly display the Vatican flag, a display only few churches in the world can present.

We were most excited, however, about the large painted mural of the last supper in which Jesus has a cooked guinea pig on his plate, a Peruvian specialty.

DSC04517WThe church also has several adjoining, beautiful cloisters that have been turned into an upscale shopping area.

DSC04520WOne of our favorite attractions was Juanita the Ice Maiden. One of the best preserved mummies in the world, Juanita was a young girl who was killed as an offering to an Inca mountain god over 500 years ago!

DSC04512WShe caused a sensation when she was discovered on the Ampato volcano a few hours north of Arequipa in 1995. Several years later they finally deduced that she died from a blunt trauma to the head, which sounds cruel, but she was chosen from birth to be given to the gods, and it’s believed that she was probably near death after days of hiking up to 20,000 ft, the altitude, and the coca tea. We weren’t allowed to take photographs on the tour of the museum or of the frozen Juanita, but they’re available in plenty on the Internet.

We also went on, can you guess? A free walking tour!

DSC04526WOur guide took us to some nice out of the way places including a great view the several nearby volcanoes (Chachani on the left, El Misti on the right),

DSC04530WP and some beautiful hidden communities and alleys.

We also visited the market which we returned to many times for the cheap bread and avocados.

DSC04523WWhile there, we spotted these funny sweet breads with faces embedded in them that we still don’t quite understand.

DSC04524WDuring the tour we started chatting with an exchange student studying abroad in Lima and her brother who were from Madison, WI! After the tour we went on an epic journey with them to find one of her favorite local treats, queso helado, or cheese ice? I was skeptical but after about an hour of looking we found the lady we were looking for. Delicious.

DSC04544WThat afternoon we also made the walk up to a beautiful mirador to relax in the square and enjoy the view.

Only in Peru do they have llamas grazing in the parks.

DSC04559WThat night we packed up and prepared to board an overnight bus to Huaraz, but we received one last treat from Arequipa as the sun set over the mountains.

Mummy Image Credits: National Geographic, Crystalinks

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